Arizona State Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on June 11th, 2012

While ASU will return five different players from its 2011-12 rotation, there are four players who saw significant time last year that will not return to the program, none of whom had exhausted their eligibility. This continues a disturbing trend in Tempe, with now 12 different players having transferred out of the program in the last four years. Below, we’ll take a look at the four players who have moved on from the program and how big of an impact their loss will have.

  • Trent Lockett – The loss of Lockett does by far the most damage to ASU’s 2012-13 outlook. Lockett, who graduated in just three years by knocking out 20+ credits in recent semesters, wound up transferring to Marquette in order to be closer to Minnesota where his mom, who is fighting cancer, lives. Lockett was not only the Sun Devils’ leading scorer last season, but he also led the team in steals, rebounds per game, and three-point percentage, in addition to chipping in at point guard and being the unquestioned emotional leader for the young team. If Lockett had returned, he would have fit in perfectly on the wing across from Jahii Carson, as well as giving the team a solid secondary ballhandler on the floor at the same time. Instead, he’ll be tasked with making guys like Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue better under Buzz Williams. While his loss certainly puts a dent in the Herb Sendek’s 2012-13 plans, our thoughts are with him and his family as the go through a difficult time.
Trent Lockett, Arizona State

Trent Lockett Is Leaving Tempe In Order To Be Closer To His Ailing Mother

  • Keala King – King left the ASU program in January after being suspended prior to the team’s trip to face the Los Angeles schools, winding up at Long Beach State, where he will be eligible after the fall semester next season. A natural wing, King was asked to fill in at the point guard position in the absence of Carson and the ineffectiveness of Chris Colvin, but he struggled with turnovers and never struck a comfortable balance between creating for himself and distributing to his teammates. While he struggled with some immaturity problems that led to his departure from the program, he was the type of athlete that could have been an impact player as an upperclassman. Instead he just goes down as another coulda-been in Tempe. Read the rest of this entry »
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Arizona State Week: Evaluating the Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on June 11th, 2012

Over the course of the next 12 weeks, during the dog days of summer while there is relatively little going on in the college basketball world, we’re going to take the opportunity to fill you in on the status of each program in the Pac-12. Beginning this week with Arizona State, we’re going to dedicate a week’s worth of Pac-12 microsite posts to each program in the conference. We’ll take a little bit of a look at the recent history of the program and then dig into what the team is going to look like in 2012-13. Along the way we’ll have some interviews with coaches and players, we’ll take a look at schedules for the upcoming year, and we’ll introduce you to some of the new faces we’ll all be meeting. By the time kids are heading back to school in September, we hope to have kept you entertained while giving you a good primer for the Pac-12 conference in the next college basketball season.

Our first subject, Arizona State, is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons. When Herb Sendek took over the program in 2006-07, his team struggled to an 8-22 finish as the Sun Devils featured four freshmen in their eight-man rotation. But, for the next three seasons, ASU won at least 20 games, earned an NCAA Tournament appearance (including a first-round win) in 2008-09, and finished as high as second in the conference in 2009-10. Along the way, the Sun Devils sent a couple different players to the NBA, with reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden going third in the 2009 NBA Draft and Jeff Pendergraph turning a second round pick into a couple years worth of NBA experience. “We really experienced a fantastic and very quick turnaround,” said Sendek last week when RTC talked to him. “Three consecutive postseason tournaments, three consecutive 20-win seasons – but then, we’ve had a series of unfortunate things happen.”

Herb Sendek, Arizona State

After Three Straight 20-Win Seasons, Arizona State Has Slipped The Last Two Years (Harry How, Getty Images)

Those series of unfortunate things have led to the last two seasons, where little has gone right for the Sun Devils. In 2010-11, ASU lost 12 of its first 13 conference games on the way to a 12-19 record, as the senior trio of Ty Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks and Jamelle McMillan took a step back from their performances in the previous year and the team could never find replacements for a couple of graduates: big man Eric Boateng and underrated point guard Derek Glasser. Those exact same areas also plagued the Sun Devils in 2011-12.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 05.04.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on May 4th, 2012

  1. About a month into the offseason now, the incoming recruiting classes are just about set, while the comings and goings of Division I transfers are beginning to sharpen in focus. In the past week, we’ve learned that Washington State would be welcoming in former Iowa State center Jordan Railey, who saw limited time in his two seasons in Ames, but could be a factor up front for the Cougars in 2013-14. Utah will be the landing spot for Loyola Marymount graduate transfer Jared DuBois, who was a double-figure scorer in all of his previous seasons in Los Angeles (he redshirted his junior year after playing 175 minutes early prior to a season-ending injury). While DuBois can be a little wild at times, he should give head coach Larry Krystkowiak a sorely-needed offensive punch. Then there is former Tennessee forward Renaldo Woolridge (aka Swiperboy), who will spend his final season of eligibility at USC after graduating from the Knoxville school this spring. Reign of Troy expects Woolridge to step right into the starting lineup for Kevin O’Neill, but given his lack of accomplishments with the Volunteers and the influx of new talent for the Trojans, that may be overly optimistic. He should earn a significant spot in the rotation though.
  2. Meanwhile, a couple of outgoing transfers announced their landing spots, as Curtis Washington, formerly of USC, will head to Georgia State, while Arizona State refugee Kyle Cain will matriculate at UNC Greensboro, both becoming eligible in 2013-14. But the biggest name among outgoing Pac-12 transfers is Josiah Turner, heavily rumored to be heading to SMU and their new head coach Larry Brown, but who has not made any official announcement yet. Perhaps the decision was delayed some by the latest in a long line of bad decisions made by the talented youngster, as Turner was busted by university police last Thursday morning for a DUI, along with driving without a license, registration and insurance. After wasting a season in Tucson, it could be up to Brown to revive a once promising basketball career, but he’ll have to convince Turner to take his off-court life more seriously before any progress can be made. Percy Allen has a complete rundown of all the conference transfers.
  3. A couple conference schools landed more recruits this week, as Utah scored a commitment from swingman Dakarai Tucker this week, wrapping up an eight-man recruiting class (including DuBois) for the Utes. With four incoming freshmen to go with redshirt freshman Jeremy Olsen (back from a Mormon mission) and a pair of junior college transfers, hopefully Krystkowiak can begin to stem the tide of wild roster turnover every offseason in Salt Lake City. Likewise, in Eugene, Dana Altman scored a commitment from three-star wing Fred Richardson, a smart shooter who was considering a handful of other major conference schools. However, all is not done for Altman this year, as he continues to pursue top-ten recruit Anthony Bennett and four-star center Chris Obekpa, both of whom are still in the process of deciding where they will attend school.
  4. Last stop in terms of player movement: Mark Lyons, formerly of Xavier, is on the market and strongly considering Arizona as a landing spot for his final season of play next year. Lyons is also considering Kansas and Kentucky, but he will visit Sean Miller’s program this weekend. Lyons already knows Miller well, having been recruited to the Cincinnati school by him and having spent a redshirt season under the former head coach. Also, Lyons hosted current Wildcat wing Kevin Parrom when he took a recruiting visit to Xavier in 2009. Miller could sure use Lyons next season, as the Wildcats lack a clear answer at the point guard slot. While Lyons is a combo guard (at best), he is certainly a more obvious answer at the point than anyone else currently on the Wildcat roster.
  5. And lastly, speaking of Parrom, the Wildcat junior was named one of the winners of the 2012 Wilma Rudolph Award, an honor given to student-athletes who “have overcome great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics.” Parrom was shot in the leg in September while visiting his mother at her home in New York City as she was trying in vain to fight off cancer. Parrom’s mother’s death just weeks later came on the heels of his grandmother’s death earlier last summer. And, as just the icing on Parrom’s difficult season, his year ended early when he broke his foot in late January and missed the rest of the team’s games. This is a deserving honor for the player who has had to deal with so much in the past calendar year.
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Arizona State: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 6th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Arizona State.

What Went Wrong

Herb Sendek had a ton of bad luck this season. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson fought with the NCAA over eligibility issues well into December before finally being declared ineligible (he came up either one letter grade in a high school class or one ACT point away from eligibility) for the year. And transfer Chris Colvin struggled mightily early in the season (35.3 eFG% and 0.92-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the nine games prior to the Carson ruling), forcing Sendek to turn to wing Keala King at the point. He actually did as good a job as could be expected for a player without any experience there (although he too struggled with turnovers), but bristled under Sendek’s constraints and transferred out of the program after being abruptly suspended (with two other teammates) prior to a January road trip. That left leading scorer Trent Lockett, another wing, as option #4 at the point, and when he went down in late January for six games with an ankle injury it was back to Colvin. All of the uncertainty at the lead guard spot did nothing to make anything easier for the rest of the team. Sophomore Kyle Cain took a step back after a promising rookie campaign (and announced his own transfer out of the program after the season ended), centers Jordan Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev were up and down (at best), and the program is now 22-40 in the past two seasons combined. While it seemed like Sendek’s crew was a walking proof of Murphy’s Law, the time is past for excuses; this program is in bad, bad shape.

Herb Sendek, Arizona State

Not A Lot Went Right For Herb Sendek And The Sun Devils This Year (Harry How, Getty Images)

What Went Right

Really, you’ve got to stretch in order to find positives in this year’s team, but Jonathan Gilling, a freshman forward from Denmark, looked pretty good in his first year on campus as maybe a second-coming of Rihards Kuksiks. Gilling knocked down 53 threes at a 41% clip while playing a shade over 50% of the available minutes, but he’s got work to do not only on the defensive end as well as helping out on the glass. Sophomore center Jordan Bachynski showed some flashes of serious potential, scoring in double figures in eight of his final 13 games and showing a penchant for being able to get to the line, although he needs to add consistency. And, more than anything else, when ASU fans look back on the good parts of the 2011-12 season, they can always point to the regular season finale, when they knocked off Arizona behind solid play from Gilling, Bachynski, Colvin, Lockett and even junior Carrick Felix, effectively eliminating the Wildcats from at-large NCAA consideration. That was sweet for Sun Devil fans.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 20th, 2012

  1. Rick Majerus was once again a national story this weekend as his current team, the Saint Louis Billikens, gave Michigan State, the #1 seed in the West Region, all it could handle. But, as the former head coach of Utah, he took the Utes to their most recent Final Four (in 1998) and Block U thinks that it is time the university officially acknowledge the impact Majerus had on the Utah basketball program. In part due to an unhappy ending to the Majerus era (he resigned after a feud with athletic director Chris Hill), he has never been officially recognized by Utah with a plaque, naming the court in his honor, or seeing his name in a ring of honor. Given that he is one of the most important figures in the history of basketball in the state (guys like John Stockton, Karl Malone and Jerry Sloan are certainly somewhere ahead of him), it seems like a worthwhile idea to me.
  2. Yesterday in the Morning Five, I mentioned that only Oregon, Washington and Oregon State were still alive in postseason basketball from the Pac-12. I was, of course, completely wrong about that, as Stanford played last night in the NIT and Washington State hosted Wyoming in the CBI. Apologies to both schools for the oversight, but we’ll rectify that situation this morning. The Cougs handled the Cowboys with ease, scoring a 20-point win over a solid Wyoming defensive team as All-Pac-12 first team member Brock Motum scored 25 points and grabbed seven boards.
  3. Oregon State, who we did remember to mention yesterday, played their quarterfinal game in the CBI on Monday night and ran TCU out of the Gill Coliseum, by a 101-81 margin on a 70.8% eFG. The Beavers were led by Jared Cunningham who went for 27 points. Unfortunately for the Pac-12, the conference will be forced to cannibalize itself early in these tournaments, as the Beavers will advance to face Washington State while Washington and Oregon will meet in the NIT quarterfinals.
  4. Stanford advanced in its NIT game in a battle of the long ball. The Cardinal and its opponent, Illinois State, combined to hit 27 of their 47 three-point attempts on the way to a 92-88 overtime final. While three different Redbirds scored more than 20 points, it was Aaron Bright who led the way for Stanford with 29 points (on 11-of-13 shooting, including six threes) as the Cardinal came back from 11 down midway through the second half to advance to host a quarterfinal matchup against Nevada on Wednesday.
  5. A week ago, we got word that Arizona State forward Chanse Creekmur would be transferring out of the program to play football at a school closer to his home in Iowa. On Monday, we got news that Kyle Cain would also be transferring out of the program. Cain started 17 games last season and averaged 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and was one of three players who were suspended abruptly for the Sun Devils trip to the southern California schools. The loss leaves ASU short-handed up front for next season but, perhaps more importantly, highlights what is seen as a major problem in the program: kids leaving the program early. Cain’s departure marks the eleventh scholarship player to leave Herb Sendek’s program in the last four seasons. That issue, coupled with a 22-40 record over the last two seasons, means that Sendek may need to have his team show some serious improvement in 2012-13.
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Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2012

  1. Yesterday, the eyes of the college basketball world were fixated on a hypothetical operating room in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall underwent surgery to repair a fractured scaphoid. Right now information on the procedure and the outcome is limited outside of the usual useless PR information we always get. For right now we are getting conflicting reports with some people saying that Marshall hopes to play while others are saying it is unlikely he will play. In reality, the only people who are capable of making that prediction are Marshall and the orthopedic surgeon who operated on him. Over the next four days you will hear plenty of “experts” speculate on Marshall’s potential to play take it with a grain of salt because without looking at the imaging of Marshall’s wrist, examining it, or being in the operating room everything is just conjecture. That goes for all of these anonymous orthopedic surgeons that everybody is citing.
  2. After a solid, but unspectacular Kyle Cain appears to have decided that he will be transferring from Arizona State.  Cain, who is originally from Illinois, becomes the 11th scholarship player to transfer from Arizona State in the last four years.We are not sure how much Cain’s suspension earlier this season factored into his decision to leave, but something does not seem to be working in Herb Sendek‘s program and we imagine that the school’s boosters are going to be making a lot of calls.
  3. After he took time off earlier this season for an unspecified medical condition, which he never came back from, we suspected that we might not be seeing Bobby Cremins for much longer and yesterday he confirmed our suspicions when he announced his retirement. While Cremins was fairly successful during his six years at College of Charleston, he is best known for his time at Georgia Tech where he made it to five Sweet Sixteens including an Elite Eight in 1985 and a Final Four in 1990.  Cremins finishes his career with 579 wins, which ranks him 46th all-time among Division I coaches.
  4. With all of the focus in the state on whether or not Shaka Smart will head to Illinois to take over as head coach, the team’s former head coach, Bruce Weber, may be in line to get his old job back at Southern Illinois. According to a source, Weber is expected to interview for the job although the school has reportedly refused multiple attempt at confirmation. Weber went 103-56 in his first stint at the school including a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2002.
  5. While Weber may be taking over at Southern Illinois, another well-known coach is looking at Eastern Illinois. According to a report, Dick Versace has expressed interest in coaching at the school. Versace, who will turn 72 in less than four weeks, is most well-known for his time at Bradley where he was named National Coach of the Year in 1986 and for his time in the NBA where he coached the Indiana Pacers before becoming an analyst for TNT then working with the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies. Versace says he got developed the desire to coach again while helping out Rollie Massimino and feels that he can do the work necessary to compete at a high level. While we would not discount Versace for his age as he is not much older than two very notable Big East coaches, we do have our reservations about someone who has not coached since 1998 and at that point he was serving as an assistant. For their part, Eastern Illinois is yet to respond publicly to Versace’s interest in their position.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: MLK Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2012

  1. Being the optimists that we are here at RTC, we want to get the week started off on the right foot, so we’ll begin with the best win over the weekend, a dramatic road victory by Oregon over Arizona on Saturday afternoon. After the Ducks built up a 17-point lead early in the second half, they eased up on the gas just a bit and before you knew it, they were down in the final couple minutes. A big three by Garrett Sim stemmed the bleeding and put Oregon back up with under two minutes to play, but he later missed the front-end of a one-and-one to give the Wildcats the ball for the final possession. Sim did his part to make up for his miss by blocking a shot from UA freshman Nick Johnson, and then two other shots by the Wildcats on the final possession came up empty and the Ducks escaped with a valuable road win. Oregon now has three road conference wins, the most in the Pac-12, and have put themselves in good position to stick around in the conference race with the Los Angeles schools visiting next week.
  2. Okay, enough of the sunshine and rainbows, on to the worst loss of the week: Oregon State dropping its fifth conference game in six tries, this time a road loss to Arizona State. It’s not all that long ago, some of us were talking about Oregon State as a possible contender for the conference title. Now, the Beavers have had some bad luck along the way, but Saturday’s loss at Tempe sealed their fate: It is now, almost officially, win the Pac-12 Tournament or dream of an NIT bid for Craig Robinson and company. The Sun Devils rode six three-pointers from sophomore Chanse Creekmur  to overcome the loss of junior wing Trent Lockett, who left midway through the second half with a severe ankle sprain. Herb Sendek was also able to get serious production out of Kyle Cain (16 points, eight rebounds) and Ruslan Pateev (ten points, five rebounds, three blocks) in Lockett’s absence. ASU again struggled with turnovers (they coughed it up 21 times), but were able to ride their own hot shooting (68.4% eFG) and the Beavers’ awful shooting (40.6% eFG and just four-of-21 from three) to their second conference win. While there is no official word from ASU, the loss of Lockett will likely leave the Devils with just eight scholarship players in uniform for their games with Colorado and Utah next week. Meanwhile, the Beavs are left to pick up the pieces while wondering what has gone so wrong in the first few weeks of conference play.
  3. Elsewhere this weekend, we had nothing but blowouts. Washington State actually had Washington on the run for about 28 minutes, leading by as much as 11 points. But then sophomore Terrence Ross got whistled for a charge on a 50/50 play, Lorenzo Romar got pissed and drew a technical, and the Huskies responded with a 15-2 run that turned into a 38-18 stretch for U-Dub to finish the game. Over that stretch, Ross had 16 of his 26 second half points (he scored 30 in the game) and grabbed four of his game high 14 rebounds as the Huskies pulled away. It certainly wasn’t the most balanced game for this Huskies (they shot 26 three-point attempts, and actually shot better from three than from two), but they destroyed the Cougars on the glass on both ends of the floor (55.3% offensive rebounding, 88.5% defensive rebounding) and earned an important win ahead of their chance at hosting league-leading California and Stanford next weekend. However, the Huskies will likely play both of those games without second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, who missed the WSU game with a stress fracture in his left femur.
  4. While the Cougars at least gave their fans some cause for hope in their rivalry game, USC fans had no such luck, as they were blown out early and often by UCLA Sunday night. While the Bruins were anything but impressive, the Trojans were just dreadful, unable to shoot the ball, unable to rebound and certainly nowhere near the defensive presence they have been in earlier games. The fact that a UCLA team led by the tissue-soft Wear Twins and a foul-and-weight-limited Joshua Smith outrebounded the Trojans as substantially as they did (UCLA rebounded 50% of their own misses and 80.6% of USC’s) should keep Kevin O’Neill awake far longer than I will be tonight.
  5. Lastly, we’ll double up on the Bay Area schools, the two teams atop the conference standings through three weekends. Stanford scored a seriously impressive win on Saturday, turning a six-point halftime lead into a 27-point lead in the middle of the second half against Colorado before calling off the dogs. Stanford just did everything better than the Buffaloes and got a big spark for the second game in a row from sophomore forward Josh Huestis, who tied his career-high (set on Thursday night) with 13 points, adding four blocks. Meanwhile, California just took apart Utah in a game that was never in doubt. After Utah opened scoring with a Cedric Martin three, the Golden Bears scored 24 of the next 29 points in the game, took a 17-point lead into half and eventually won 81-45. Sophomore Justin Cobbs handed out a career-high 11 assists as the Bears combined for 24 assists in the game.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • This past weekend likely saw the best regular season game of the Pac-12 schedule, as Stanford battled Oregon State for four exciting overtimes before finally securing an all-important road victory.
  • Given the relative homogeneity of the conference, the recipe for winning the regular season title is going to be: 1) take care of business at home; and 2) steal a handful of road games against the middle and bottom of the Pac. On both of those fronts, Stanford is looking good now, sitting with California, Washington, and Arizona atop the conference. What’s that you say? Colorado actually leads the conference with a 3-0 record? Sorry Buffs, but get back to me once you have tasted the road in the Pac-12. Right now all three of their wins have come at home.
Chasson Randle, Stanford

Stanford's Four Overtime Win Over Oregon State Helped Keep Them Among The Contenders In The Pac-12 (Rick Bowmer/AP)

  • Elsewhere this past weekend, Thursday night was upset central as all six underdogs came away with victories that night, before things got back to normal, as only Stanford was able to spring the upset. UCLA got back to .500 in conference after sweeping the Arizona schools, making the Bruins and Buffs the only homestanders to win both of their games last weekend.
  • And, lastly, the Pac-12 lost another promising player to immaturity this week, as Keala King was dismissed by Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek after being left back from the Sun Devils’ trip to the Los Angeles-area schools week along with Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin. In Sendek’s press conference on Tuesday, he referred to King being unhappy with being forced to play point guard in the absence of ineligible freshman Jahii Carson and butting heads with Sendek over his role. As a result, King joins the growing list of Pac-12 players who have divorced their programs this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2012

  1. Arizona State came into conference play as one of the least talented teams in the Pac-12. This weekend they played without three of their players, all suspended for “unacceptable conduct” and it was announced Sunday that at least one of those players who had been suspended this weekend will not be returning to the team as Herb Sendek dismissed Keala King from the team. Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin, who were suspended along with King this weekend, apparently will return to the team. King becomes the eighth Sun Devil to leave the program with remaining eligibility since 2008 and the third player in a seven-man 2010 class to leave. It’s a good thing Sendek signed a contract extension earlier in the year, because this program is an absolute mess and will need to start over more or less from scratch next offseason. For what it’s worth, ASU did salvage a weekend split in Los Angeles, knocking off USC on Thursday before getting blown out by UCLA on Saturday.
  2. Saturday night, Stanford and Oregon State played one of the most entertaining games you’ll see this season, as the Cardinal somehow pulled off a 103-101 victory in the fourth overtime at Gill Coliseum. It was a game that was worth watching from the opening tip to the final buzzer, from Roberto Nelson’s shoeless three-pointers early in the first half (that had the OSU announcers way, WAY too excited) to his late body slam of Josh Huestis, to his potential game-winning three-pointer at the end of the fourth OT that just missed. There’s a ton more to be discussed here, and we’ll have something up later this afternoon, but for now enjoy reliving the game with Jeff Eisenberg’s five memorable moments from the game.
  3. There were two Pac-12 games on Sunday afternoon although neither came anywhere near matching the excitement in Corvallis Saturday night. They were, however, important games as the road teams came up with wins in both games. First it was Arizona getting over on USC in one of the uglier games you’ll see this season. The teams combined to shoot 3-of-30 from behind the arc, Arizona turned the ball over 17 times, and Maurice Jones was allowed to shoot the Trojans out of yet another game (he was 3-of-13 from the field and is now shooting a 42.1% eFG this year). Later, it was California going into Oregon and coming away with a 17-point victory that was most notable for Allen Crabbe’s best game of the season – 26 points, 12 rebounds and six three-pointers. In both cases, the road teams earned weekend splits, putting the Bears and the Wildcats, along with Stanford’s Cardinal and perhaps Washington’s Huskies atop the list of conference favorites.
  4. Washington’s on that list above in part due to their road win at Utah this weekend. While a win on the road in this year’s Pac-12 is nothing to scoff at, the Huskies weren’t exactly impressive in their victory. After struggling with the woeful Utes for 39 minutes, Washington at least had some breathing room down the stretch, having built up an eight-point lead with just a minute to play. But then Desmond Simmons missed the front-end of a one-and-one with the Utes in foul mode. And then Terrence Ross missed two more front-ends, allowing Utah to get back to within two points with 12 seconds left. Ross finally capped the game off by drilling a couple free throws, but the Huskies’ performance certainly didn’t inspire much confidence.
  5. Lastly, back to that UCLA/ASU game for a second. Bruin sophomore center Joshua Smith, back after missing Thursday’s game with a minor concussion, had his best game of the season, scoring 18 points in 21 minutes and dominating the undermanned Sun Devils. Thursday night Ben Howland noted that Smith, who has struggled with his conditioning throughout his UCLA career, after much work both in and out of practice, was down to his lowest weight of the season (presumably somewhere north of the 305 pounds at which he is presently listed). Saturday night, the work that he had put in was evident. Not only was he able to play 21 very effective minutes, but he actually dunked a ball – not just once, but twice! Don’t believe me? The proof is in the picture here. Now, this doesn’t mean that all of a sudden Smith is the all-conference performer that he has the talent to be (he did, after all, manage only four rebounds against ASU), but it is a huge step in the right direction both for Smith and the Bruins. I like to think he heard my plea.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.22.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 22nd, 2011

  1. Let’s start things off with a wrap-up of the latest Shabazz Muhammad buzz. Five Star Basketball reported on Wednesday that he had cut his list to six schools: Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Arizona and UNLV, in the order in which he mentioned them, for those wishing to come up with yet another clue as to his intentions. USC and Texas A&M were among the schools trimmed off the list. Muhammad confirmed that Sean Miller still had the Wildcats in the running, even with (or maybe because of) the already stacked recruiting class headed to Tucson. But if you ask Nerlens Noel (currently the #2 rated recruit in the 2013 class, according to ESPNU) or Brandon Bibbs, either UCLA or Kentucky are the favorites. There had been a report last week from Jerry Meyer that Muhammad was losing interest in UCLA, however, so as always, this story is a long ways from being decided.
  2. USC hosts Kansas tonight at the Galen Center, and if recent history is any indication, the Trojans might have a chance. Although the Pac-12 is just 9-37 against ranked teams the last three seasons, USC owns four of those nine wins. And with the Trojans coming off their best offensive performance of the season, and Kansas coming off a loss to Davidson and still working to get point guard Tyshawn Taylor back in the groove after knee surgery, perhaps Kevin O’Neill has his team primed to pull a whopper.
  3. Arizona State lost on a late three-pointer for the third time in as many games on Wednesday night, when Fresno State’s Kevin Olekaibe hit a go-ahead three with 30 seconds left to send the Sun Devils to their third straight loss. But ASU head coach Herb Sendek wanted to look beyond the play in the final minute, as the team blew a 17-point lead and played “despicable” defense in the second half. Olekaibe scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half and sparked a 23-4 Bulldog run that put FSU up, prior to ASU responding and taking the lead back. After a Kyle Cain three-point play put the Sun Devils back up, Olekaibe drove the final nail in the ASU coffin, sending them to 4-8 on the year.
  4. More good news out of Salt Lake City on Wednesday, as junior guard Glen Dean, just one week removed from brain surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel, was able to watch Utah practice. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak hopes Dean, a transfer who is sitting out this season, will be able to return to practice fully sometime in early January, and a complete recovery is expected.
  5. Lastly, Tony Woods is getting a second chance at a college basketball career at Oregon, after transferring from Wake Forest following a guilty plea to a charge of assault on his girlfriend. While Woods’ game is still raw, head coach Dana Altman is hoping to mold a difference maker out of the 6’11” junior, building his post-up game while keeping on him to give consistent effort on the defensive end. And Woods is buying in and happy, saying that “life is good here.”
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Arizona State’s Jahii Carson Declared Ineligible

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2011

After a long drawn-out process, Arizona State freshman point guard Jahii Carson was finally declared ineligible for this season, following the results of an ACT test that came up just short of the score needed to qualify on the NCAA’s sliding scale. Carson was a top 50 national recruit out of Mesa High School in Phoenix, expected to take over the Sun Devil point guard position from day one and give Herb Sendek’s team the speed and electricity necessary to run a higher-tempo style of basketball. However, after Carson’s transcripts from a summer class came up short of qualifying him with his first ACT score, he took the test again and, according to ASUDevils.com, came up either one ACT point or one letter grade in one class away from gaining eligibility. Carson will be allowed to practice with the team from here on out, but will enter next season as a sophomore with a chance to regain the season’s worth of eligibility depending on his academic progress.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Jahii Carson Is Able To Practice With The Sun Devils, But Won't Be Eligible To Play Until Next Year (Credit: maxpreps.com)

Arizona State is off to a 3-5 start this season (with some bad losses to Pepperdine and DePaul mixed in there), and, coming off a 12-19 season last year, the hope was that Carson would help begin to turn the team around. However, in his absence, the Sun Devils have struggled to take care of the ball, turning the ball over on over 26% of their possessions (326th in the nation). Junior Chris Colvin and sophomore Keala King have taken the majority of the ballhandling responsibilities, but both of them have turned the ball over on more than 30% of all possessions. With Carson’s help delayed, King and Colvin will need to drastically decrease their turnovers for the Devils to be able to improve on last year’s record.

Looking ahead to next season, Arizona State could return all of this year’s contributors along with Carson and a couple of Division I transfers (Liberty transfer Evan Gordon and Hawaii transfer Bo Barnes) and a trio of incoming freshmen. Trent Lockett, the team’s leading scorer, is on pace to graduate in three years however, and there is the possibility (although Lockett has given no indication that this is his intention) that he could transfer to another Division I program without sitting out a year. If he does return, Sendek will have a trio of talented returnees on the wing in Lockett, King (who would be able to shift back over to an off-the-ball role he is more comfortable with) and Carrick Felix. The Sun Devils would still need to find somebody to give some sort of consistent contribution up front – seven footers Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski have been underwhelming this year, while sophomore forward Kyle Cain remains a work in progress – in order to compete for a tournament bid, but next year’s Sun Devil backcourt should be loaded with talent.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.18.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 18th, 2011

  1. In an exciting nightcap at Madison Square Garden Thursday night, Arizona turned an eight-point deficit to St. John’s with under seven minutes to play into a nine-point win when it all was said and done. While it was Arizona veterans like Jesse Perry, Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill who finished strong for the Wildcats, it was their pair of highly-touted freshman guards who got the 23-6 game-closing run started. Nick Johnson took advantage of the Red Storm’s zone defense to drill a three on an underneath inbounds play, and on the next possession point guard Josiah Turner stepped into a passing lane, made a steal and threw down a slam at the other end to swing momentum. Johnson later added another three in the middle of the run to finish with 11 points off the bench, while Turner had his best game of his young career with eight points, three rebounds, and a couple of steals. He’ll still need to get his game under control more (he turned the ball over four times in 19 minutes), but last night he earned the minutes he played. He and his team will get another chance to take a step forward tonight as they face Mississippi State back at the Garden for the Coaches vs. Cancer championship.
  2. On the other side of the continent, USC came up on the losing end of another exciting game that came down to the final moments. Playing at San Diego State, Trojan sophomore point guard Maurice Jones hit a wild game-tying three pointer with 6.8 seconds left, only to see his team give up a coast-to-coast drive for a bucket from Aztec sophomore point guard Xavier Thames with 1.8 seconds remaining to provide the final margin. Jones played all but a minute of the game for USC and led the Trojans in scoring for the third straight game, but his team fell to 1-2 with the two losses coming by a grand total of five points, including a double-overtime loss to Nebraska in their last outing.
  3. ESPNU’s recruiting guru Dave Telep posted his rundown on the remaining unsigned top 100 recruits in the 2012 class and actually opined that UCLA’s struggles in their first two games of the season may help rather than hinder their pitch to #1 overall recruit, Shabazz Muhammad. Apparently Muhammad is looking for a needy co-dependent suitor, and if that’s the case, maybe the Bruins are employing a strategy similar to the Suck for Luck sweepstakes in the NFL. Elsewhere on Telep’s list, Cal and Oregon seem to be running a bit behind St. John’s for ESPNU’s #30 recruit, Ricardo Gathers, while Washington is one of many still trying to get a commitment from #7 Anthony Bennett.
  4. Arizona State hosts New Mexico tonight, with both teams coming off losses earlier in the week. It’s been said that ASU is ready to play a faster tempo this season (although the first couple of games don’t indicate much of a change) and the Lobos will certainly offer the Sun Devils every opportunity to do so. However, Herb Sendek’s team has plenty of things they’ve got to shore up before they can be considered a different team than last year’s 12-19 squad. First, guards Chris Colvin and Keala King need to buy into Sendek’s gospel of ball movement, something they haven’t done yet. And secondly, somebody along the ASU frontcourt, whether it be Kyle Cain, Jordan Bachynski or Ruslan Pateev, needs to show that they can provide the threat of a scoring punch up front. Until that happens, this is still Trent Lockett and a bunch of inoffensive warm bodies.
  5. Lastly, we head back to the Wildcats, as Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News tells the story of Kevin Parrom’s battle back from the gunshot wounds he sustained in an attack in New York City in September while visiting his mother who was then dying of cancer. Back in New York this week for the Coaches vs. Cancer event, it is a bittersweet homecoming for the junior from the Bronx, coming back to the city where he could have lost his life, and where his mother did lose her life just a month ago.  Parrom first made it back to the court last Sunday against Ball State where he played a key role in helping the Wildcats scrape out a victory. When he left the court at the end of the game to a standing ovation from the McKale Center crowd, he also got a big embrace from his coach Sean Miller, a hug that Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen puts on par with some of the other great moments in Arizona basketball.

Today we’ve got a bonus entry, as I forgot to include our football picks for the weekend. Last weekend was a dismal week for both of us as we each went 3-3, but I’d have to point out that I at least got the Oregon pick in our game of the week right (although I had the game much closer than it turned out. And, it should be noted (if only because I’m the one writing this and not Connor), that although Connor holds a one game lead on the year, I’ve correctly picked all three of our games of the week, while Connor is a mere 2-1). This week we’ll look at Oregon again in our game of the week, this time against bowl-ineligible USC playing another in a long line of what amounts to mid-season bowl games.

Game Connor (12-6) Drew (11-7)
Arizona @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
Colorado @ UCLA UCLA UCLA
California @ Stanford Stanford Stanford
Washington @ Oregon State Oregon State Washington
Utah @ Washington State Utah Washington State
USC @ Oregon Oregon 38, USC 21 Oregon 49 USC 30
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